The Bias Of Communication: Media And Bias

1800 words - 7 pages

On the 9th of September 2001, an estimated audience of 2 billion people watched the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York, live on television (Giddens and Sutton, 2013: p766). The notion that information can be spread so fast and to so many receivers is still a relatively new notion to modern society but it has become such an integral part of our everyday lives. As Macionis and Plummer (2012: p762) state, “this is the time of the media”, with 73% of UK adults accessing the Internet everyday (Ons, 2013). The statistics show that modern media is a huge foundation of our everyday lives, with around 79% of the UK population in 2002 citing television as their main source of world news (Philo and Berry, 20011: p276). Yet how biased is the media we rely on and what is the source of the bias? In this essay, I will seek to address these two concerns, by analysing the forms of media and then the content of media, and examining how these two aspects could be understood as containing bias.
Over the course of human history it can be seen that the forms of media that have been used can be separated into four broad categories. There are oral cultures, which originated around 100, 000 years ago and are where speech is the only, or primary, means of communication (Macionis and Plummer, 2012: p766). There are writing cultures, where written languages are developed and become the most effective means of communication (ibid). Print cultures developed more recently, beginning with the invention of movable type printing in China as early as 1040 AD, and then more famously by Johannes Gutenberg in Germany around 1450 AD (ibid; Fulcher and Scott, 2011: p360). Finally there are electronic cultures, which are currently what most of humanity’s communication has become dominated by, and include mediums such as radio, television and the internet (Macionis and Plummer, 2012: p766). The main criteria that differentiate these categories are how many people can receive the communication, how effectively can the communication be produced or reproduced, how far can the communication travel and how fast can the communication be delivered in relation to the distance it is travelling. For example, the time it would take for a message to be delivered 1000 miles by letter would be much longer than if it was sent by email. Different forms of media have different relationships of who can receive a message and how can they receive the message, and it is arguable that these different relationships create different biases. Types of media can be effectively split into two broad categories; time-biased media and space-biased media (Innis, 1991: p33).
Harold Innis, defines time-biased forms of media as being, “those that are durable in character”, while spaced-biased forms of media are, “those that are less durable and light in character” (Innis, 2007: p26). Early forms of writing such as Cuneiform, which was developed around 4000 BCE, can be seen as a time biased form of media (CDP,...

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